Friday, November 1, 2019

Review Round-Up - October 2019

It made be hard to bee-lieve, but just like clearing the Impossible Lair, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
bee-ing SuperPhillip Central's Game of the Month is quite the possible feat!
While lacking in gaming frights over the ghoulish month of October (I'm saving those for November), SuperPhillip Central did scare up a wide range of review scores over the past month with its six games reviewed. We started off with a duo of platformers, one 3D, the other 2D. Spyro Reignited Trilogy finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch after a yearlong wait, earning an A-. Meanwhile, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair made the impossible possible and got Game of the Month credentials with its A grade.

Moving on to some smaller projects, Game Freak's Little Town Hero had a creative and quirky battle system, but it may be too involved for most players. That's why I gave the game a C+. Our lowest scored game of the month got a D, and that was CoreCell Technologies' AeternoBlade II, specifically the Switch version.

Finally, rounding things up for this Review Round-Up were a pair of free-to-play games. Super Kirby Clash declared war on the sinister do-badders of Dream Land, getting a B for its troubles, while Asphalt 9: Legends surprised and drifted its way to a B+.

Check out every review ever posted on SuperPhillip Central with the SPC Review Archive!

Spyro Reignited Trilogy (NSW) - A-
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (PS4, NSW, XB1, PC) - A
Little Town Hero (NSW) - C+
AeternoBlade II (NSW) - D
Super Kirby Clash (NSW) - B
Asphalt 9: Legends (NSW) - B+

Free-to-play is here to stay, and on the Nintendo Switch, that's not necessarily a bad thing
if the games are like Super Kirby Clash and Asphalt 9: Legends.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween: MORE Spooky Levels in Non-Horror Video Games

A creepy chill is in the air, and that only means one thing--Halloween is here once again. Three years ago on this very day, SuperPhillip Central took a ghoulish glimpse at some truly terrifying levels that came from non-horror video games. Allow SuperPhillip Central to once again treat you to our trick of providing even more spook-tacular video game levels from the most unlikely of games. While you probably won't be shocked and scared to your very core, perhaps you'll occasionally feel a chill run down your spine from reading this list.

Be Afraid of the Dark - Yoshi's Crafted World (NSW)

I can imagine younger players enjoying the bright and bouncy, happy-go-lucky levels of the relatively recent release of Yoshi's Crafted World for the Nintendo Switch, and seeing that delight on their faces turn to sheer fear, dread, and utter panic once they arrive at one of the late levels of the game, Be Afraid of the Dark. As the level name suggests, players should stick to the light, because if they don't, axe-wielding dolls will charge at them, chasing them mercilessly until they reach the light. Thankfully for Yoshi, these enemies brandishing axes can't enter the light, but unfortunately for Yoshi, the level likes to play a lot of tricks, including turning off lights suddenly, introducing several jump scares, and having an ending dash to the finish where Yoshi is pursued by an army of raging maniacal axe-wielders that wish for nothing more than to "cut" to the chase. While the level won't scar kids for life, it certainly will have them (and even older players) feeling uneasy throughout.

Pokemon Tower - Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! (NSW)

In the already spooky village of Lavender Town, where things always seem a little bit... off, their stands a seven-floor tower whose shadow stretches beyond the town's borders. This tower is a burial ground for deceased Pokemon, and many of the spirits inside are restless, including a Marowak, which haunts the tower to this day. The Ghost Pokemon taking up residence in this tower cannot initially be seen, but with the help of the Silph Scope, their true forms reveal themselves, able to finally be battled. This includes the aforementioned Marowak, who by being reunited with its Cubone child that it was protecting when it perished, has its spirit set free, no longer haunting the tower. The overall vibe of the tower and the haunting music (especially the 8-bit version) played while inside make the Pokemon Tower one that sent chills up this player's spine when he had his very first Pokemon adventure back in 1999.

Big Boo's Haunt - Super Mario 64 (N64)

Our next level comes from the classic Nintendo 64 launch title that redefined 3D gaming, Super Mario 64. It's Big Boo's Haunt, a spooky mansion with a central lobby and multiple doors leading to a variety of creepy rooms. Some rooms feature flying books armed to the literal teeth with... well, TEETH, some feature fake floors, and one room in particular features a harmless-looking grand piano that when Mario approaches--oh, dear GOD, that thing has teeth, too!? Meanwhile, exploring the basement floor of the mansion reveals a crooked carousel that spins around, seeking to singe Mario with its fire jets, all the while playing a creepy carnival-esque theme. To say that Big Boo wishes Mario enjoys his stay at the specter's mansion would be something that couldn't be further from the truth.

The Bottom of the Well - The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64, 3DS)

Speaking of the Nintendo 64 era and industry-defining games, we have a really spooky area which has part of its spookiness coming from the dark, relatively crude and unrefined graphics of the time. The other, more sizable part of this area's spookiness and creepiness comes from the fact that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time mini-dungeon "The Bottom of the Well" is just freaking disturbing as all get out in the first place. Complete with Wallmasters, Like Likes, hidden passages, fake walls, Skulltulas, a bottom floor grotto filled with acid and surrounded by sleeping Gibdo mummies that want nothing more than to get up close and personal with Young Link (by, you know, strangling the life out of him), and a particular boss that is all "hands on" with its prey. As a kid I dreaded every time I had to visit the Bottom of the Well mini-dungeon and its follow-up, the Shadow Temple. Venturing through this well of horrors as Link's kid self, knowing such a place existed under the bustling and otherwise welcoming Kakariko Village, still fills me the occasional dread to this day.

Halloween Town - Kingdom Hearts series

Based off of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, Halloween Town is a Disney world that finds Sora, Goofy, and Donald visiting it multiple times within the Kingdom Hearts series. There are the visits in the first two numbered Kingdom Hearts games, as well as various handheld games like Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Halloween Town features a myriad of points of interest that any Nightmare Before Christmas fan worth their weight in pumpkins would recognize immediately, such as Curly Hill and the Guillotine Plaza, which the latter serves as the central hub of the world. Kingdom Hearts II would further expand on the Christmas zone, offering players not only a significant helping of Halloween to satiate fans' appetites, but also a sizable offering of twisted holiday charm, too.

Hallowee Ville - Puppeteer (PS3)

If you're looking for Tim Burton-esque Halloween magic without Tim Burton actually having anything to do with its creation except by inspirational proxy, Hallowee Ville from Sony's insanely overlooked and underrated Puppeteer is a horror-fied place of the game that provides plenty of spooks and scares. From jump scares aplenty, zombie hands that poke out of the ground, a grim reaper boss that wishes to crush Puppeteer protagonist Kutaro with its bare bone hands, and a gigantic Pumpkin that not only barfs out ooze but also swallows our hero whole, requiring Kutaro to rush through its innards or else be crushed by its closing, pursuing line of teeth, Hallowee Ville isn't one to welcome its guests with open arms and well wishes. That's okay, though, because the challenge and horrors found inside make it all the more entertaining and memorable of a level.

Tawfret - Jet Force Gemini (N64)

The tragedy of the planet Tawfret of the Nintendo 64 cult classic Jet Force Gemini from Rare is a sad one. A once hospitable planet in the galaxy full of leafy forests and lovely lakes, the environment of the planet turned into a swampland and full of murky marshes under a perpetually gloomy and stormy sky. When Emperor Mizar's drone army took the planet under his control, a local shaman and king of the Tribals inflicted a zombification curse on the army. Now, under the spooky skies and scary setting of Tawfret lie a nightmare come to life, enemies that are true zombies in every sense of the word. Tawfret is the third and final planet Juno, one of the three protagonists of Jet Force Gemini, ventures to before reaching Mizar's Palace, and it's not exactly the most welcoming environment in the game. Housing a bog, bridge, and castle settlements, constant downpours, flashes of lightning, and an understated but tense score to it, Tawfret very much applies as a spooky setting in a non-horror video game.

Haunted Woods - Diddy Kong Racing (N64)

The final of four tracks in the Dragon Forest area of one of my favorite kart racers ever created, Diddy Kong Racing, is Haunted Woods. The Dragon Forest selection of tracks is mostly medieval-themed with some courtyards, castles, and of course, as the Dragon Forest area name would suggest, forests. The Haunted Woods track is a rather short track compared to the other three inside the area, having players navigate around a fountain in a central courtyard before entering into a castle tunnel leading to a windy section of track, curving around a twisted, tall, and large tree trunk. It's here that ghosts and specters in the shape of villain Wizpig's head float around to haunt passersby with their crooked grins and mocking laughs. Short but sweet, Diddy Kong Racing's Haunted Woods delivers a Halloween-style track under sinister burnt umber skies.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Luigi’s Mansion 3 (NSW) Overview Trailer

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat! Or instead, just give me something good to play this Halloween--that'll work better and won't give me an unnecessary sugar rush either! By the looks of things, it seems that Luigi's Mansion 3 will be something good to play indeed this Halloween. It's a true treat for Nintendo Switch players, and a true trick that Nintendo puts out yet another well received Switch game this year. While the rest of us wait for the Luigi's Mansion 3's Halloween launch on October 31st, check out this nearly six minute overview trailer for the game.


Monday, October 28, 2019

Asphalt 9: Legends (NSW) Review

SuperPhillip Central is back from the weekend to review our second free-to-play game in a row. This game also released on the Nintendo Switch, but while Super Kirby Clash had Nintendo 3DS origins, this next game initially appeared on mobile devices. It's Asphalt 9: Legends, and here's SuperPhillip Central's review.

Free-to-play and free to kick asphalt.

The Asphalt arcade racing series is one that's no stranger to mobile devices, and while it's tried to make the jump in the past to more traditional gaming devices such as the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita, it couldn't quite land on all four wheels. Instead, for the most part, it careened off course and wiped out. Now, the Asphalt series sees its ninth mainline installment--which released on mobile devices last year--on the Nintendo Switch with the same free-to-play formula and monetization practices. With analog controls as well as the same optional touch-based and gyro-based controls, Asphalt 9: Legends manages to burn some serious rubber on the Switch.

The distance indicator is a godsend in knowing if you need to start pulling
that infamous "come from behind" win.
Let's get the free-to-play stuff out of the way first, shall we? Asphalt 9 has multiple premium currencies used to progress through and play the game. To start, every vehicle you take to the track with has a set amount of times you can use it before its gas gauge runs out, requiring you to either wait until the gauge replenishes or spend another form of premium currency to fill the tank up immediately.

You begin your Asphalt 9 journey of illegal street racing with one car in your garage, and by playing through the career mode, completing daily events, and earning cards from packs, you gather blueprints for new cars. Initially, the process is relatively quick for the most basic of vehicles, but if you want cars with better statistics and higher performance, you're going to have to grind or pay up.

Completing missions is the easiest and most common way to earn tokens.
Each car has its own performance rating number, and this is basically its level. You raise this number by upgrading your car's max speed, acceleration, handling, and nitro by spending credits, yet another premium currency in the game. Cars can only be upgraded a certain amount of times before they need you to collect blueprints to increase its star level, thus allowing more upgrades to be purchased, which in turn, boosts that given car's performance.

Each career mode race has its own recommended performance rating number that indicates the absolute minimum your car needs to be at in order to have a chance at winning the race, or at the very least to actually compete. The higher your number is compared to the recommend performance rating for that career race, the easier the race will be--pending you don't drive like Mr. Magoo, crashing into every thing you [don't] see. The career mode is divided up between multiple racing seasons and each season has its own lineup of linear events to take on. The more you progress in a given season's events and races, the higher the recommended performance rating number ends up being for each subsequent even.

Any racer worth their need for speed knows all about drifting around turns.
Thus, as you can imagine, there are a lot of times where you just have to wait to complete a season because you don't have a car at a high enough level of performance to be competitive against the AI. Thankfully, there are usually other seasons with events available for your cars, though it's important to note that not every car can enter every event. Some seasons lock certain classes of cars, certain makes and models of cars, and so forth.

The career mode's various seasons and events reward car blueprints, credits, and tokens for completing events. When I say "completing events", I mean successfully earning all career flags on a given racing event. Career flags add stipulations to races in addition to just crossing the finish line in first place. These include having you perform a set amount of stunts, drifting a certain distance, using nitrous for a given amount of time, etc.

Hightail it out of there--it's the fuzz!
I found myself often reaching a dead end in the career mode because I didn't have cars with high enough performance ratings to continue. That's when the other modes of Asphalt 9: Legends lured me in with their daily events to earn regular car blueprints, credits, and tokens. The latter two allowed me to purchase more blueprints from the in-game shop to quicken my pace of progression.

While I could have easily dropped money on Asphalt 9, a modicum of patience with the unlocking process and progression systems in the game allowed me to not spend a single real life cent on the game. That said, I feel that Asphalt 9: Legends on the Nintendo Switch is easily worth investing some money into just because it's an incredibly well done game and overall runs well on Nintendo's hardware. The visuals are absolutely stunning and while they aren't going to confuse onlookers into thinking they're watching something out of real life, they do a fantastic job all the same. Everything from the details in the environments to the damage dealt to cars when they're totaled or seeing mud or snow cling and cake onto their undersides is impressive.

Ooh! And a luxury car, too. You hate to see it happen.
Also impressive is the track design. There are 42 tracks set in seven unique real world locations, such as San Francisco, Shanghai, Malaysia, Cairo, and Rome. Tracks feature a myriad of well defined paths in both appearance in the environment and on the helpful HUD map. There is a plethora of places to perform astonishing tricks in order to build up your nitro meter to slam into other opponents and gain seconds-shaving boosts of speed. All of the tracks in Asphalt 9 at each of the game's expansive seven locations have you visiting familiar ground, but the ways the tracks direct you to different parts of each location makes them fresh and exciting rather than tedious and boring.

From the pyramids on the outskirts of the city to actual highway racing downtown,
Cairo is but one of the stops in your Asphalt 9: Legends career.
The controls are also impressive as well. With the mobile version of Asphalt 9, I found myself often frustrated as I couldn't quite achieve the level of control and precision I desired with my driving and racing (and subsequent wrecking from said lack of control and precision). With the Switch version, not only do you have analog controls and an analog stick for comfort and precise movement, but you also have more control over braking, drifting, and easing off the pedal for particularly tricky corners and turns. Those who desire a more streamlined or beginner-friendly approach can find both tilt controls, and touch-based controls, where you move your finger along the screen, guiding your vehicle along predetermined paths. You have less control over your vehicle, but it's a more relaxed and less stressful race overall.

You won't complete Asphalt 9: Legends' career mode too quickly. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
Finally, it's my pleasure to say that online play for up to eight players at once runs well. You get notices of poor connections, including your own, but overall, races don't become frustrating messes because of this. Playing online, participating in races, and finishing races results in earning trophies towards unlocking card booster packs, which randomly dole out car blueprints, import parts to upgrade your vehicles's performances, money, and more.

One thing to consider about online is that yes, there is some pay-to-win stuff going on here, as well as those who spend lots of time with the game having greater cars to work with. This is particularly apparent as you increase your rank and enter higher racing leagues where the amount of cars you're limited to use lessens. However, being at higher racing leagues gives you great rewards when each placement period ends, which is generally a week's time. Still, having uneven races where one player or group of players can leave all the others eating their collective exhaust does happen more often than I would like to see.

Asphalt 9: Legends wasn't a game I ever devoted long stretches of time to, as it's not really a game built for that due to its various roadblocks and barriers to progression. Sure, paying money to get new cars and credits is a fast way to crash through such barriers, but I preferred a slower pace and several bite-sized sessions over the course of these past few weeks rather than enduring multiple hour-long plays. Asphalt 9: Legends brought enough entertaining last-second victories, killer knockdowns of other racers, and insane stunts such as dizzying barrel rolls and 360 degree spins that it kept my attention for much longer than some full-priced sixty dollar games. If you can deal with its free-to-play model of monetization and various premium currencies meant to slow down your progress, then Asphalt 9: Legends is an arcade-style racer that is an especially smooth ride on the Switch.

[SPC Says: B+]